Author Topic: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996  (Read 7372 times)

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That was kamikaze football. Great for the fans but realistically nobody will win the championship defending every week like these teams did tonight"
[Roy Evans, 3rd April 1996]


Introduction
For the 23rd entry in the 2013 edition of the RAWK Advent Calendar, we go back about two decades to the infancy of the Premier League (in those days, called ‘The Premiership’), back to the 1995/96 season and, specifically, the game that (rightly or wrongly) still regularly tops polls to name the greatest Premier League game of all time.

These days, Liverpool Football Club is trying to become a contender again after a run of 7th, 6th, 8th and 7th place finishes, with a team that appears to be going places, a progressive, attack-minded manager in Brendan Rodgers who occasionally likes to dabble with three centre-backs and seems to have a genuine appreciation for the club, a magician with the ball at his feet who regularly dribbles rings around opponents in Philippe Coutinho, and arguably the deadliest strike partnership in the League in Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge. Back in 1996, the club was similarly trying to re-establish itself at the top table after three disappointing (to put it mildly) years under Graeme Souness which had seen it finish 6th, 6th and 8th in consecutive seasons. The manager, Roy Evans, was a man with a similarly attacking approach who certainly loved the club after devoting 30+ years of his life to it at that point in various roles, and he was similarly partial to the deployment of the 3-5-2 formation from time to time (ok, all of the time). The magician whose skills made the team tick, Steve McManaman, was Scouse rather than Brazilian but his influence was no less for that. And the strike partnership that was giving defences all over the land sleepless nights was the all-English combination of then-British transfer record signing Stan Collymore, who had arrived from Nottingham Forest for £8.5m that summer, and…well, ok, I tell a lie, it was actually an Anglo-Scouse partnership comprising Collymore and a man whose 21st birthday was still six days away when Newcastle United visited Anfield in April 1996. He was known simply as ‘God’, and he was slap-bang in the middle of a divine prime that was to end all too quickly.

The point of such comparisons? None really, except to provide some kind of context for where the club was at back then – not a million miles away from where it is now, on the pitch, at least. Also, to provide a note of caution – argue all you want about where Brendan Rodgers’ team is heading, but the real time to worry is when they’re involved in a game on which everything is riding and yet they’re simply unable to prevent it developing into a hockey score. When you find yourself thinking “if only we could have held them to two goals…” Rafa Benítez presided over two 4-4 draws in April 2009 (against Arsenal and Chelsea) which proved to be the final nails in the club’s League and Champions League campaigns that season respectively and, well, things didn’t go particularly well for him after that. The 3-4 reverse to Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup final was the first sign of impending doom for Kenny Dalglish’s great team of the late 1980’s, the last a 4-4 draw against Everton the following season which proved to be his final game in charge. I’ve come to believe over the years that, as fun and entertaining as it can be as a supporter to see your team involved in such goalfests (provided they win, of course), it is defensive solidity which equates to control and, the vast majority of the time, ultimately success. The great Spanish team, which next summer will attempt to bring home an unprecedented fourth consecutive major international trophy, is a perfect example. In South Africa in 2010, the Spaniards became the lowest-scoring world champions in history, notching a mere 9 in 7 games and winning all four knockout matches by a 1-0 scoreline. What they had was control, dominating possession in every game and, therefore, controlling their own destiny. It was something that neither Roy Evans’ Liverpool nor Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United could ever quite manage, at least not when they needed to the most.

Now, unfortunately, I have no matchday stories about the day and night in question or anything like that. I was sat watching it in my living-room in the arsehole of Ireland with my parents, a couple of amazing people who had to put up with a lot from my 16 year-old self back then. This particular game represented an opportunity for us to just sit down and do something together, to talk to each other, to simply have a laugh during a time in my life when I was miserable pretty much every day. So while the ultimate fate of that particular Liverpool team is now synonymous with disappointment, it’s a nice memory for me all the same, which is to say nothing of the fact that April 1996 was a genuinely exciting time to be a young Liverpool supporter. The team was on the up, a 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Old Trafford three days before the visit of Newcastle propelling the club into an FA Cup final date with Manchester United. Robbie Fowler was virtually guaranteed to score in every game, and it felt like great things were possible (in the early days of April, maybe even the double). Most of all, the game provides a snapshot of a moment in time that defines two teams, encapsulating their strengths and, more importantly, flaws and, by extension, the particular eras of the two clubs with which they are associated. And even though it probably isn’t quite the classic that it’s often made out to be, it does deserve to be remembered.

So let me briefly set the scene here. It was the era of ‘Brit Pop’ and the Gallagher brothers, of Spice Girls (and boys – more on that one later). England hosted Euro ’96, eventually won by Germany in what remains their last major international tournament victory to date. The most successful manager in English football history, former Liverpool boss Bob Paisley, passed away on Valentine’s Day. His last remaining signing still at the club, Ian Rush, moved on for the final time after the season ended, this time to Leeds United on a free transfer. As hard as it may be to believe, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand were amongst those making their League debuts (1996!). Wimbledon still existed. And in its fourth year of existence, the era of big-money foreign signings coming to the Premier League was just beginning. Chelsea signed Ruud Gullit; Dennis Bergkamp arrived at Arsenal after an underwhelming spell in Italy with Inter and went on to become a legend at the club; in the early weeks of the season, Tony Yeboah embarked on what seemed like an endless run of Goal of the Season contenders; and French winger David Ginola helped spark Newcastle United towards a title challenge, only for perhaps the most high-profile foreign arrival of them all that season, Faustino Asprilla, to be (unfairly, in my view) blamed for them coming up short. Nonetheless, despite the growing influx of exotic names, English football still remained English to an extent that seems kind of unbelievable today, some 17 and a half years later. And with 16 of the 19 squad members who made appearances in the League that season being born in Britain and one of the other three (John Barnes) an England international, you could definitely argue that no club epitomised that more than Liverpool.

Background
The turnaround of the club’s fortunes under Roy Evans had been stark. Inheriting a demoralised, unorganised mess from predecessor in January 1994, in just over two years this veteran of the famous Bootroom had crafted a squad that seemed (at least to this naïve teenager) to be on the verge of something special. Built largely around the mesmeric attacking talents of McManaman and the relentless goal-scoring of Fowler, the team had finished fourth and claimed the League Cup in 1994/95, his first full season in charge, and by April 1996 were awaiting an FA Cup final at Wembley and sitting third in the League, on the fringes of the title race. Evans utilised a 3-5-2 formation, a system which was enjoying a high profile at the time thanks to the exploits of European champions Ajax (albeit the two variations of it were substantially different). Virtually everything went through McManaman (although Collymore also created his fair share of chances with his work outside the box) and it was said (with some justification) that if you stopped him, you stopped Liverpool. Upfront, Fowler and Collymore plundered 42 League goals between them, with McManaman chipping in 6, but elsewhere the team was built to be solid first and foremost, with three out-and-out centre-backs defending in a line across the back (typically three from Phil Babb, Neil Ruddock, John Scales and Mark Wright) and two midfielders sitting relatively deep in front of them, usually captain John Barnes and Jamie Redknapp with Michael Thomas deputising on occasion. Jason McAteer, an early-season arrival from Bolton, offered a good attacking outlet down the right, but the more defensive Rob Jones (a superb right-back but with a relatively weak left foot) and Steve Harkness didn’t quite offer as much on the opposite side.

It was, therefore, generally that front three of Fowler, Collymore and McManaman that won the games for Roy Evans’ Liverpool (the following season, Patrik Berger would be added to the mix). If those three got up a head of steam, the Reds were hard to stop. On Wednesday 3rd April 1996, Newcastle United found that out first hand.

In many ways, that 1995/96 season was defined as much by Newcastle United’s eventual (and total) failure every bit as much as Manchester United’s double success, a dubious achievement but one with some merit based on the evidence. The Geordies won 9 of their first 10 games and 19 of their first 25. For roughly two-thirds of the season, they looked every bit like champions-in-waiting and their long League Championship drought (stretching all the way back to 1927) looked sure to end. And then they went on a run of 2 wins from 8 during a six-week spell from February to April which killed them stone dead, particularly with United surging behind them. That run would see them drop 17 points; they lost the title by 4. They coughed up a 12-point lead in that period, conceding 15 goals in the process and drawing a blank in 3 of them. Even so, as they arrived at Anfield in early April for the sixth game of that fateful run, they still had their destiny in their own hands – win the rest of the way, and they couldn’t be caught. But Newcastle were, by then, a shadow of the team that had started the season so well. They were a free-falling aircraft, a boxer being held up by the ropes with his gumshield dangling precariously from his bottom lip as he flails his arms aimlessly trying to push it back in. They appeared to have no plan, no means of weathering the storm besides continuing to attack and hoping for the best. Four games previously, they had drawn 3-3 at Maine Road against Manchester City, who would end up the lowest scorers in the League that season and relegated. At a time when they desperately needed to pull out a couple of boring 1-0 wins to steady things a bit, they just couldn’t stop conceding goals (in contrast, Manchester United won 7 of their last 15 games 1-0). Under the circumstances, Liverpool were the last team they needed to be playing that night.

The Game

To elaborate a little bit on an earlier point, one of the most striking things looking back (alongside the state of the Anfield pitch, definitely a throwback) is the make-up of both squads that night. For the home side, every player in the first eleven and three (as it was then) substitutes was British-born, with Welshman Ian Rush and Scousers McAteer (nominally Irish) and Tony Warner (nominally Trinidadian) the only officially non-English participants (please feel free to subtract Scousers from that total, by the way). Manager Roy Evans was also from Liverpool. Newcastle were similar themselves. Manager Kevin Keegan was English and, outside of the silky smooth skills of Ginola, Asprilla, Belgian Philippe Albert and, er, Pavel Srníček, practically the entirety of the squad on duty against Liverpool was English (Northern Irishman Keith Gillespie, an unused substitute that night, the sole exception). The two squads also comprised, by my count, 8 local lads, with 4 Scousers taking part for Liverpool (Fowler, McManaman, McAteer and Warner) and 4 Geordies for Newcastle (Steve Watson, Steve Howey, Peter Beardsley and Lee Clark). Times have certainly changed for both clubs.

What this collection of predominantly British talent would ultimately produce was quickly hyped as one of the greatest games in English football history, particularly by the Premier League’s main broadcaster, Sky Sports. I mean, we all know what they’re like, right? Even then, they had a flair for the ridiculous, taking drab games between teams like Coventry City and QPR, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday at grounds like the Dell or Highfield Road in front of crowds numbering 15,000 or 20,000 people and somehow finding a way of making them sound like the 1970 World Cup final. But a night time game between two free-flowing, attacking title-challengers that included seven goals, a number of lead changes and an injury-time winner? Well, you can imagine. To be fair, in terms of drama, it still takes some beating, even if Istanbul has since come along and blown past it. It was definitely better than the repeat performance a year later, also 4-3 to Liverpool, which had none of the attacking ebb-and-flow to it but instead saw one team stroll into a 3-0 lead and then do their best to implode by quickly conceding three goals (hmmm, sounds familiar somehow). This truly was a game that could have gone either way, and the result was in the balance right until the end. And it’s not as if there was nothing riding on the result; a win would take Liverpool to within five points of first place with six games to go, while Newcastle had the opportunity to pull level with Manchester United at the top with a game in hand. Make no mistake, this game was huge.

In terms of the football, well, I was always more disposed back then to viewing seven goals in a game of football as the mark of an instant classic. These days, I’m a bit more discerning. For example, is a nutmeg (in this case Asprilla’s for Newcastle’s first) any less beautiful if it was perpetrated on a lumbering Neil Ruddock rather than a legendary defender like Franco Baresi, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta or Paolo Maldini (I only vaguely remember Asprilla in Serie A, so it’s entirely possible that he did similar to them on occasion)? Are all exquisite pieces of skill created equally, or do they lose some of the magic depending on the talent of the opposing player (to be fair, 3 years of Luis Suárez has well and truly answered this one for me: no – no they don’t)? And, by extension, is the same true of ‘classic’ games? Would the events of that night be more worthy of the legendary status attributed to it by Sky and others if the seven goals had flown past, for example, Peter Schmeichel and Petr Cech in their primes rather than a young (and, as we would find out a year later, video-game enthusiast) David James and Pavel Srníček? Indeed, neither ‘keeper did much that evening other than picking the ball out of their respective nets, although James did make a crucial save from Les Ferdinand with the game at 3-3 and nearing its conclusion. But can a game truly be given the ‘greatness’ tag without a plethora of great players actually taking part? And then you had the goals themselves. You could argue that at least six of the seven were the result of some kind of defensive lapse, whether it was poor tackling, non-existent marking or bad organisation (the one exception, in my opinion at least, the superb cross produced by Jason McAteer for Liverpool’s third which was impossible to defend). Can a game truly be considered classic when you find yourself looking back on the goals scored and cringing at how both teams defended?

Personally, while I accept that such questions are undoubtedly valid, I’m not compiling a painstaking rundown of the greatest games of all-time here. I’m writing about one game that was a wildly entertaining, reckless, end-to-end joyride and that was, to be frank, fucking brilliant from the moment Redknapp swept a long cross-field ball to Jones who plucked it out of the air with a beautiful cushioned pass to Collymore, who in turn whipped one of the best crosses you’ll ever see directly on to Fowler’s forehead, who (as ever) didn’t miss. Do I consider the game a classic? Well I still remember it after 17 years which is an important start, if not quite like it was yesterday then like it was last Wednesday, maybe. It wasn’t a cup final or a European night, nothing more than three points were gained and even those were ultimately rendered useless by what happened four days later at Highfield Road where, having hauled themselves back into the title race against Newcastle, Liverpool slumped to a 0-1 defeat to relegation-threatened Coventry. Granted, my age at the time and relative paucity of Liverpool success in the 1990's (3 trophies in a decade) probably has something to do with it, and yes, there weren’t that many world-class talents on show. At the same time, there was a fearlessness to both teams that remains a joy to watch. Neither one, it seems, knew any other way to play football other than how they did. That may be one of the main reasons why the combined managerial reigns of Evans and Keegan yielded just one League Cup, but it certainly made for some exciting football at the time and for games, like this one, that you truly couldn’t take your eyes off, not even for a second.



For the record, following Fowler’s opener inside two minutes, Newcastle reacted in a way that made you think they might just be League Championship material after all. By the 15th minute, they were ahead. First, as mentioned, Asprilla skipped past Ruddock in front of the Kop at around the 10-minute mark and delivered a low ball into Les Ferdinand’s feet, who took one touch to set himself before firing off a bullet of a shot that flew through James’ hands (easy to forget what a goal-machine Ferdinand was in his prime). Four minutes later, and McAteer was caught upfield as Ferdinand collected a ball near halfway and set Ginola away down the wing. McAteer did his best to recover but there was no catching the Frenchman and the finish was superb. Neither team scored again until ten minutes into the second half. McAteer collected the ball from James and sent a long pass down the wing to McManaman, who brought it down and ran at the Newcastle defence. Twisting Albert inside out as he did to so many, he eventually attracted three opposition players, none of whom seemed willing to make a tackle. McManaman waited for the perfect moment to produce a low cross to the feet of Fowler, whose finish from just inside the area was first-time and about as clinical as you get. Newcastle reacted again, this time within two minutes. Liverpool’s defence was nowhere to be found, and James in the middle of nowhere, as Lee played Asprilla in who finished well under pressure from the onrushing ‘keeper. Now Collymore took centre stage. First, on 67 minutes, McAteer produced that phenomenal cross for him to tap in at the far post to make it 3-3, then, two minutes into injury-time, he found himself all alone in the box after good work from Barnes and Rush (which was nonetheless defined by the inability of what seemed like the entire Newcastle team to clear the ball from the edge of their own box) and rifled past Srníček at close range. This time, there was no reply from the visitors. They were done, in more ways than one.

Aftermath


For Newcastle, nothing defines that era quite like the sight of Kevin Keegan slumped in anguish as Stan Collymore sprinted away in celebration after putting Liverpool ahead for the final time. The Geordies finished second the following year under Kenny Dalglish with Keegan having vacated the dugout mid-season. Record-signing Alan Shearer, who arrived in the summer of 1996, became the Premier League’s record goalscorer in the black and white stripes, and the club would go on to have some very good seasons, particularly under Bobby Robson, even tasting Champions League football, but they have never again come quite so close to tasting the ultimate glory as they did that season. Liverpool, for their part, even though the Roy Evans era ultimately delivered just one League Cup, still have 18 League Championships to their name, along with three European finals, a couple of FA Cup wins, three League Cups and two title challenges in the intervening years. For Newcastle, however, that was their one chance to end a drought that (still) goes back as far as 1927 (as Sky relentlessly reminded us at the time by showing us that old Geordie supporter in the away end who was apparently the only man alive who could remember their last League title win, you remember the one, the poor old gent looked like his world was coming to an end). That early-April defeat at Anfield was a microcosm of that team and why it was ultimately doomed to failure.

The epitaph (rightly or wrongly) for Roy Evans’ team would arguably arrive five and a half weeks later at Wembley and involved an infamous set of cream suits, but there was enough evidence on show that night at Anfield of the judgement that would ultimately be passed about that team – like their opponents, talented but fatally flawed. The following season, it would be them slipping in the final months of the season, winning just 4 of their last 11 and losing fairly meekly once again to Manchester United, who won 3-1 at Anfield in a game where everything was at stake. Having led the League for much of the season, the club even missed out on achieving Champions League football for the first time, eventually slipping to fourth. In the summer of 1997, Evans (mistakenly, in hindsight) tried to inject a bit of ruthlessness into the team by signing Paul Ince from Italy and he reverted permanently to a 4-4-2, but neither worked. Despite finishing one place higher in 1997/98 and seeing the emergence of Michael Owen, the writing was on the wall for Roy Evans. In the summer of 1998, Gerard Houllier arrived to begin a new era for the club. And while he and Evans were nominally joint-managers, Roy was predictably the one to leave after a poor run of results in the early months of the 1998/99 season. His final press conference at the club illustrated precisely how much Liverpool meant to him, and his departure after more than three decades as player, coach and, finally, manager was an emotional one. And for the supporters, with the 1996 Cup Final surrender still fresh in our memories, it reignited the debates about the commitment of the players who had played for him.


These days, it’s perhaps fair to say that the majority of the Evans-era team is not fondly remembered, even for those of us who idolised them at the time. Fowler, Barnes and Rush certainly are, although the latter two were well past their respective bests by then, and the likes of Rob Jones (despite ultimately having to retire very young) and Jason McAteer (I could be wrong about ‘Trigger’, mind you) also seem to be well-liked. But the rest? At a club still defined by achievement, where success is still a requirement rather than a nice bonus, they were the classic under-achievers. The “Spice Boys”. Goalkeeper David James later recollected of that time: “As someone who wants to be a manager in the future, I can tell you that one of the worst things is to see players waste their talents and not do everything in their power to win games. I was one of those players. All of this is very ambivalent. You want to win; you just do nothing about it. At Liverpool, there were some really talented guys. In 1996, we played a Cup final vs. Manchester United. We were rubbish. People only remember our pre-match creamy white suits. This Spice Boys image didn’t come out of thin air, it had some foundations. You never once saw the Manchester United boys in the clubs. They didn’t have women surrounding them, never had any pictures in the press. We were everywhere. Even on television shows, on a Friday night before a game. The worst was the fact that no one was telling us anything, all the while losing games. Had I been the manager, I’d have said: “Guys, you will have fun when you win.””

All of which calls to mind a quote later attributed to Evans’ successor, Houllier, on the subject of Steven Gerrard, the one about how if he stayed out of the clubs for long enough he might own one someday. As supporters, we’ll never really know the truth of what went on, whether it was simply a case that Manchester United were just better or whether, as many argue to this day, that Liverpool team could have beaten them to the major trophies with just a little more discipline and a lot more hunger. That game against Newcastle is, therefore, ultimately tinged with regret and thoughts of what might have been. I’ll leave the final word to David James once again: ”On paper, man for man, we were as good as United. We allowed ourselves too many distractions and once we’d won the League Cup all but switched off. We were seduced by things peripheral to football. I remember Robbie Williams travelling down to Aston Villa with us on the team coach, and he was strolling about on the pitch before the game. He was a decent bloke but what the hell was he doing being allowed on the team coach? Unlike Roy Evans, Fergie would never have let that happen.”

Anyway, here’s the game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAYVNIsV4wo
« Last Edit: December 20, 2013, 09:52:25 PM by E2K »
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Offline Hinesy

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #1 on: December 23, 2013, 01:16:09 AM »
What a brilliant piece. E2K reminds us why he's one of RAWK's finest.
Enjoy the 23rd article.
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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2013, 10:03:38 AM »
Stunning that mate, always enjoy reading your posts.
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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2013, 03:32:16 PM »
Fantastic mate, I love your writing it's one of the treats on RAWK. Our lives are interwoven with the history of the club and that is what gives these memories their validity not whether you were there or not. That was a great summation of the Spice Boys and the Evans era. I sometimes think that it would be interesting to see it as a foreshadow of greater changes we were witnessing in wider society, the hedonistic and selfish vs the collective and working together to achieve greatness, I was working that night and didn't go but can remember getting updates and the ecstasy and agony in equal measure
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Offline Yorkykopite

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2013, 04:27:28 PM »
Very thought-provoking. I'd never thought about those high-scoring draws (or losses) like that before. You're right too about the mixed feelings many fans had about Roy Evans's team. Thrilling, it certainly was, with one of the most exciting forward lines we've had at Anfield. But the defence was often woeful and at least one player in it throughly dislikable.

I went to this match and because of the inevitable after-match celebration I got back to London at about 5 the following morning, ready for work just three hours later. But it was absolutely worth it. The journey back in the car was about the game and the game alone. Everyone was on such a high. It was impossible to talk about anything else. I must have heard at least 500 versions of what people were feeling when Collymore stuck the winner in - and it was as thrilling the last time as it was the first.

The thing about the game though was that you dreaded a tonking in the first 15 minutes. Newcastle weren't just better than us. They were miles better. Ginola and Asprilla, especially, were untouchable.
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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2013, 05:19:27 PM »
I watched this on Sky Sports Classics earlier and still the best game of the Premier League era.

Offline John C

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2013, 06:29:14 PM »
Most of all, the game provides a snapshot of a moment in time that defines two teams, encapsulating their strengths and, more importantly, flaws and, by extension, the particular eras of the two clubs with which they are associated.
A stunning read mate, thank you.
The above for me was a very poignant point, both teams capable of fantastic football but unable to prevent that Man U train unfortunately. I loved the football under Evans but I resented the weakness's we displayed.

But I do think it was a classic game mate, for so many reasons. Not just because its stood the test of time, but 20 years later I still feel the mixed emotions of having won a spectacle yet dented Keegan's hope of doing the Mancs.

Thanks again, it was a frustrating few years knowing we were on the brink but yet so far.

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2013, 06:45:52 PM »
Terrific that mate, brought back a lot of memories, not all of them fond ones (you ruined Christmas :P). Hadn't seen all of those David James comments before (though he said something similar on BT Sport a few weeks back) and it's a shame to read those differences between our players and the Mancs.

Still, some positives as well, the feeling of euphoria when Collymore scored the winner namely. Hard to believe that Fowler was still 20 when that match took place, he was phenomenal during his early years as well.
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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2013, 10:40:29 PM »
Always think back to this match.

Ginola going down easier than Jordan.
The searing pace of Asprilla, lethal but utterly unpredictable like a cobra with a personality disorder.
McAteer at right back, I never approved of that and I disapproved of it as the game started.
Stan, as always flattered to deceive and never quite looked comfortable in the shirt.

The Geordie block next to me brought his little kid (7 or so), and when he cried as we scored the winner, the boy tried to console him "never mind dad we're still in it".

Bizarrely some left early, I'd taken my mum to the game and she had an argument with a guy who called her a fat cow (she later confessed he may have had a point).

The game was utterly breathless, but there was a sense of insane inevitability about the winner.  Mcmanaman carried the ball for what seemed miles (has any Liverpool player carried the ball as far as him?) and we were deadly on the counter.

 Not sure it struck most around me what an amazing game it was until it was over.  Got out on to anfield road and it hit me, the hairs on my arms stood up, too involved in the game before to even take stock of the brilliance of the game.

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Offline Gnurglan

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2013, 11:16:20 PM »
Great piece!
I missed the game. Had no way to watch it back then, so had to follow it on text tv. Was still quite exciting. Can still remember walking between the kitchen and the tv, waiting for the next update. Must have been ace to be there.

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"The key isn't the system itself, but how the players adapt on the pitch. It doesn't matter if it's 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, it's the role of the players that counts." Rafa Benitez

Offline Hinesy

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2013, 11:29:01 PM »
I'd taken my mum to the game and she had an argument with a guy who called her a fat cow (she later confessed he may have had a point).

ha ha ;D
Yep.

Offline Guz-kop

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2013, 12:14:41 AM »
Top read that mate, thanks.

I really liked that team. I don't disagree with what the James quote is alluding to there about the way some of our lads behaved and the way Evans did/didn't manage that. However we WERE a good team and it's not like they were losing games left right and centre. In the 95/6 season we conceded less goals than both Newcastle and the Mancs. We just drew too many games. We had a fantastic run in the middle of the season going like 15 games unbeaten or something. Unfortunately after the 4-3 we seemed to win one, lose/draw one. We had no consistency at the end of the season. Maybe the cup run had a big influence on that. Without looking back, I bet the mancs went on a good run in the last couple of months winning most games as they often did under Ferguson.

The following season was a closer title race and until this season probably the tightest with at least 3 teams chasing the mancs (us, Arsenal and Newcastle with Villa not too far  behind for a lot of the season). Again, although history seems to have dubbed Evans' teams as one that could attack but couldn't defend for shit - I don't think we had the worst defence of the title challengers. Once again we had a shit end to the season from what I remember. Didn't the mancs beat us at Anfield last home game of the season?

They had better players than us, ultimately, although Evans has moulded a really good side and we came awfully close. Especially in 96-7
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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2013, 10:09:31 AM »
I remember Ferguson criticising that team saying that it had no penetration.

I think he was right (yurk!).

It was dangerous on the break, but otherwise playing in front of teams and couldn't get in behind them.

I think our current team plays the best football I've seen since then, but it's not something that it's guilty of.
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Offline rafa4eva

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2013, 11:47:52 AM »
Great read that, muchos apprecios.

My thoughts on Evans and that team, was lack of consistency, a little too attack biased to cover the mf and defensive deficiencies which became more and more apparent over time.

Some fair points from othe posters around counter attacking bias as well and not being able to play possession football as we understand it now I guess.

You make some interesting points e2k about the difference between winning and winning against good opposition. In my earlier years, I always deemed a win, a win, I guess you could only beat what's in front of you and all that. As I've got older though, I appreciate games against good opposition more than I did. Under rafa those 4 4 arsenal and Chelsea games in 2008/9 filled me with pride, because I guess in the past we nicked results against these sides, we had to work our socks off just to contain them and usually lost when we had  to open up and go for it,  for me it was one of those moments when I thought we are actually going to go toe to toe with them and that was a massive change and regardless of the result and what happened after that, it felt like we had grown as a side, club and team. Or so I had thought.

 Anyway back to 1996, great game but over the coming seasons our results in other games showed we lacked the maturity or ability to control a game to an outcome which supported our long term ambitions or goals at the end of a season eg trophies , but at that time little me thought we were world beaters who were just unlucky :) to be young and naieve again!!

Thanks again and merry Xmas all.
« Last Edit: December 24, 2013, 11:50:25 AM by rafa4eva »

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2013, 11:48:55 AM »
Magnificent. :)

Offline BCCC

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #15 on: December 24, 2013, 12:58:23 PM »
Nice one E2K. Ironically my biggest memory of the game was 'Walkaway' by Cast playing over the tannoy at half time.
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Offline The 5th Benitle

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #16 on: December 24, 2013, 03:31:23 PM »
What a treat. Thank you.


I slightly preferred the second 4-3 however as I had a pound on a 4-3 scoreline at 100-1  ;D

Offline Corkboy

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #17 on: December 24, 2013, 04:35:47 PM »
Belter, thanks E2K.

Also, we're the same age but we didn't have Sky Sports at home so I had to watch it in someone else's gaff.

Offline Hinesy

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Re: RAWK Advent Calendar #23: Liverpool 4 -3 Newcastle United, 3rd April 1996
« Reply #18 on: December 25, 2013, 12:05:16 AM »
Bump for Christmas
Yep.